Jaik Willis
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Jaik Willis

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Band Rock Jam


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"Independant Music Center"

He has a most unique soaring falsetto and a wild eyes rolled in the back of his head fierce guitar style. He writes original songs, including a fantastic song about Freedom (the gas station). Jaik's sound is somewhere between Anti-Folk and The Band and it is unlike anything I've heard from anyone else. His energy is fierce, his vocal range is inhuman, his beard is long. You've gotta check this guy out. - Zach Miller and the Independent Music Center 8/03 Urbana IL

"On The Phone with Jaik Willis"

On The Phone... with Jaik Willis By Chris Arneson

Guess who we caught when he was briefly in Bloomington/Normal for a couple scheduled shows; he’s known for is unique music style, falling into a genre of his own, singing about experiences he has had and his views of the world with all four-octaves of his voice, and playing melodies on the guitar that can keep you mesmerized by his fingers. He has been traveling around the country playing shows, solo, everywhere from Colorado to Hawaii, which is where he arrived in Bloomington/Normal from. Between his busy playing schedule we got a chance to talk to Jaik Willis. Anyone who knows Jaik is amazed by his guitar style and vocal talent, but did you know when he got his first guitar at the age of 9, never having had lessons, he continuously played the guitar upside down, not knowing the right side up. Soon after that Jaik was playing guitar, spending sixteen hours a day and by the age of 16, he was playing at the Guitar Institute in Hollywood. After studying music in Hollywood, Jaik came back to Bloomington/Normal to finish high school, and then headed back to California to study classical guitar at California State University. He then returned to B/N to study classical guitar at Illinois State University. He went on sabbatical and headed off to Europe, returning once again to B/N to continue his studies at ISU. From ISU, he headed off to Berklee School of music in Boston to study jazz for one year.

Returning yet again to B/N, going back to ISU, he began work on a thesis about Mauratanian guitar, a style of guitar based in the country Mauratania in Africa; it’s the Moorish style of guitar exclusive to the country, not known to most people. With the help of a traveler from Mauratanian, Jaik got access to 500 hours of live, inaccessible, “boombox recordings,” as Jaik described it, of this unique music and transcribed it for his thesis. After all his studies in music at numerous universities, Jaik finally graduated, not with a degree in music though, with one in Anthropology, for he had studied that during his last year in college. Between his scheduled tour dates around the country, Jaik returns to B/N, not often enough according to his friends and fans here, to inspire us with his music and grace us with his kind, humble being, but he is always here in spirit. Jaik has played in just about every state in this country, and when asked what his favorite state to play in is, he replied candidly, “right here,” just before he headed off to La Cross House for a gig, opening for ‘The Full Size Jimmy’. He also continued to say, “this is my people.” He’s talking about all of you out there in Bloomington/ Normal. He went around, during his last visit to B/N, sharing his latest CD recording entitled, “Anything’s Possible” which is his friends’ and fans’ way to keep in touch with him and get to know more about him and what is going on with him. The CD, mostly recorded in the guest room of his mother’s house, is one in which you can listen to over and over until you know every detail of his past and present life and can’t get the song melodies out of your head. Since B/N is Jaik’s home and where he has most of his roots, many of his songs were inspired by this town and experiences here, and there are references of places here in town throughout his lyrics, like in the ‘Freedom Gas Station’ song. His spirit is definitely here in Bloomington/Normal. Jaik is a major inspiration to musicians, amateur and veteran, and is a huge supporter of B/N’s local musicians. He mentioned a few of his favorite local bands and musicians which include ‘ The Full Size Jimmy’ and ‘Free Space Music’. He also mentioned Cody Deikhoff, remarking, “Cody is a genius. That guy is brilliant.” His optimistic views on the local music scene encourage and inspire a lot of those involved in the scene to play on and put B/N on the map for its amazing and underrated musical talent. While residing in B/N, Jaik himself has played in numerous bands; he says too many to account for. Most people don’t know that Jaik was one of the members of ‘Brother Jed’, a former local band with Ed Anderson, now front man of ‘Backyard Tire Fire’, and surprisingly, he put down the guitar to play bass for the band. After leaving ‘Brother Jed’, as well as many other local bands, Jaik decided to go solo and relocate himself to his car within which he travels from state to state playing venues of all kinds and occasionally opening for a national touring band. Jaik’s traveling experience has helped him realize that “there is absolutely no shortage on talent. There are brilliant people everywhere. There’s more people doing [music] now than have ever been doing it before because of the big blow up on the music industry.” Jaik claims that every town he has ever been in has had amazing music talent, and that definitely goes for this town. Jaik himself wants to experience everything and will go anywhere, as he sings, “I’ll take any gig,” in his song, “Inbetween”. Right now, Jaik Willis is playing gigs around the country and is occasionally found playing with the band Time Bomb Taxi. He can be found playing a gig as far as Hawaii and as close as Joliet, Illinois, and not often enough, he is in Bloomington/ Normal playing venues like Illinois Brewing Company and Paulie’s. Jaik Playing Djembe Until then, if you don’t have his CD “Anything Possible,” you can find one through the website, www.littlehouseproductions.net where they are being sold and distributed. You can also keep up with when and where Jaik is playing through his website or email him at jaikwillis@hotmail.com. Also, find some more information at http://jaikwillis.com . - B/N the Scene Magazine, Bloomington IL

"Jaik Willis: A Rare Form by Cody McGinnis - Nightlife Magazine - March 2nd 2006"

viewable online at :

Once in a while a rare form of musician comes along with a sound so unique that listeners just might call it original. With an eclectic array of acoustic folk-rock mixed with blues and jazz-tinged vocals, Jaik Willis, who plays Saturday, March 4 at the Hangar 9 with the Rum Runners, falls into that category. To his fans he's everything from an acoustic folk singer to a political rocker. His music echoes the experience of life on the road and the importance of having a voice in an era where freedom is often in question. Backed by remarkably intense acoustic guitar work and an unparalleled voice, Willis plays with the sincerity of a man who loves what he does.

After being accepted into the Hollywood Musician's Institute at age sixteen, Willis was practicing his music as a teenager ten to sixteen hours a day. Eventually Willis earned a degree in ethnomusicology and anthropology at Illinois State University. As a student, Willis wrote his thesis on and became deeply interested in studying the Mauratanian guitar, a little-known guitar style developed by the Moors and originating in the country of Mauritania in Africa. But what really attracted Willis to Mauritanian music was the singers.

"The sound of the singers really drew me in more than anything, a collision of African and Arab/Persian," Willis tells Nightlife. "That sound of soaring, agile voices was the root for the blues- and soul-singing styles that had influenced me so much. You aren't going to hear a lot of Moorish [influences] in my guitar playing, really, but it's one of the things some people have told me they hear in my voice."

For Willis, what began as an education studying music, particularly jazz and European classical music, turned into life on the road as a working musician. After receiving his degree from ISU, Willis already knew his calling. With such an elaborate musical background and intense passion for his music, the choice to make a career as a musician was an easy one.

"When I started out I knew within a matter of weeks that music was what I wanted to do for a career," says Willis. "There was a moment some years ago while I was moving between houses in Normal, Illinois, on my third carload of junk, when I was overtaken with this urge to turn the car west and go, and that's when the touring really kicked off. I had been playing a lot locally before that, though, of course."

With such a unique dynamo between Willis's intense guitar playing and four-octave vocal range, his musical style is difficult to categorize. Influenced by so many different musical variations, sometimes being unique hasn't always been a benefit to Willis's career. In an age where the music industry is largely dominated by commercialized and mainstream radio hits, original artists like Willis are often overlooked.

"I've studied lots of musics," says Willis. "Classical and jazz are part of several streams I've dipped my toes in. What comes out now has a lot of different ingredients and doesn't fit into a category well, which makes it very difficult for me professionally, because if I just played funk I could get a funk manager, and if I played folk I could get a folk-record label. Being at all original or unusual is a huge disadvantage in the current climate of the music biz."

For Willis, part of staying original is to constantly express his ideas through music. His lyrics come from personal experiences, as well as what's going on in the world. With songs like "Checks and Balances," he expresses his political beliefs while maintaining his unique sound.

"Art is about communicating ideas, and politics is something that needs to be communicated about since our media is doing such a poor job," says Willis. "The press isn't free anymore. It is very expensive and owned by a few voices. But in the post-Napster era, music is free, right? So I speak freely." - Nightlife Magazine - Carbondale Illinois

"Acoustic performer returns to Charleston"

Acoustic performer returns to Charleston
Kristina Peters/Staff reporter
Issue date: 1/27/06 Section: News

Students and residents interested in doubling their musical experience
will be able to do just that this weekend.

Jaik Willis, who plays acoustic guitar, will be performing in both Mattoon
and Charleston. He is no stranger to Charleston after playing at Jackson
Avenue Coffee last September.

He had good stage presence and lots of energy, said Chris Lempa, 25, from
Charleston, who was responsible for booking Willis for both shows at the
coffee shop.

"I think he has a really unique style," Lempa said.

Willis was convinced by a friend at Eastern to perform at the coffee shop.

"It was a great old time," Willis said about his last Charleston
performance. "Everyone that came out were nice folks."

The back room, where the performance was held, was almost completely filled,

Lempa said.

Willis gave a two-hour performance that night, without any breaks.

"He really maximizes his voice," Lempa said. "You can feel his soul in his

Willis, who has been performing for 17 years, got a lot of his musical
influence during college.

He studied all types of music while at college in Illinois, Massachusetts,
and California.

Willis incorporates many varieties of music in his performances, some of
which are jazz, scat, classical and rock.

"It's kind of a high-energy solo show," Willis said.

He has been touring all over the country performing in many different
arenas, festivals and even on the streets.

"I take whatever I can get," Willis said.

Ever since he was little, Willis always knew he wanted to be a musician.

"I plunged in and started practicing intensively," he said. "Sometimes

16 hours a day."

Both Friday and Saturday night, Willis will perform original songs in
addition to a few cover songs.

"He's a good performer," Lempa said. "He has smart lyrics."

Cody Diekhoff, another musician from Chicago, will be opening for Willis
at Common Grounds in Mattoon.

More information about Jaik Willis can be found on his Web sites
www.jaikwillis.com and www.myspace.com/jaikwillis.

Willis will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Common Grounds in Mattoon and at 8
p.m. Saturday at Jackson Avenue Coffee in Charleston.

http://www.dennews.com/media/paper309/news/2006/01/27/News/Acoustic.Performer.Returns.To.Charleston-1514726.shtml?norewrite&sourcedomain=www.dennews.com - Daily Eastern News 1/27/06

"Athens Music Scene 12/14/06"

Athens Music Scene
By Eric Leighton
Athens NEWS Writer
Thursday, December 14th, 2006
Court Grill

Chicago's Jaik Willis is a fella who has a beard that makes mine look like peach fuzz. He deftly melds Americana folk music with jazzier tendencies, world music and rock and roll; he then applies his four-octave vocal range to the song to take you to the moon with him. Did I mention he has a Flying V acoustic guitar? He does. His lyrics are intelligent, with a poke and a prod to the status quo, as he goes about his merry troubadour way; neat stuff. Let's all car pool to the Grill, eh?

http://athensnews.com/index.php?action=viewarticle&section=archives&story_id=26838 - Athens News

"IMG review"

Jaik's appeal is in his use of honest lyrical content, musical diversity, unique vocal styling/ability and high energy performances. In our opinion this material is highly commercial and would be well received by record companies, radio, and music publishers - IMG Music Promotions- Saskatchewan


SEPTEMBER 22nd 2006
We profiled Jaik back in January for this section,

Folksy, unique voice; oft with a near-yodeling quality; delightful lyrics;


JANUARY 27th 2006

Jaik is the traveling minstrel type, so Slapper Yapper Grasshoppers nationwide (and, for all I know, worldwide) may have opportunities to catch him. Luckily for us at DL/S&Y, here in our, ahem, giant office towers in Chicago, he appears to make the Windy City a semi-base, of sorts.

I suppose you'd call his stuff folky rock--and high quality folky rock, at that. He has a yodeling/wailing/howling quality to his singing, multi-octave, pleasant and near-impossible to duplicate.

keep an eye on him if you do catch his act and perhaps you'll save him from being hauled to Guantanamo.

Oh, and he has a long, thick, ZZ-Top-esque beard.

Not sure how important that is but, at least us at the ENTERTAIN ME! er, department, it's part of why he sticks out from the hundreds of musicians and bands seen over the course of the section. A small part but, hey, we'd feel a little disconcerted if he shaved it.

http://www.dailylimerick.net/vault/06vault/06janarchive.htm - http://www.dailylimerick.net

"IBC live show review 8/11/07"

"when you hear his voice with his music, it works. His talent on the acoustic flying V guitar and mandolin is something to behold. He stood alone on the stage, sounding like a full band. The crowd at IBC loved him. The crowd danced to every song and sang along"
- Wilma - Rearview Reviews

"the sound and conscience of young America"

very few people I know, on a big stage like this where we've had some of the best party bands in the country play, can entertain for an hour like this man right here, Jaik Willis, the sound and conscience of young America.
- Beatle Bob (Radio Host, St Louis celebrity, MC for Lollapalooza, etc) - Beatle Bob


Anything Possible
Checks & Balances
(New Album in Progress)



"Jaik is a hardcore troubador somewhere inbetween Steve Earle and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He has wandered around the USA like a modern minstrel, surfing sofas, car camping, and paying dues to sing the blues. It is a high energy solo show featuring Jaik's horn-like voice darting around a blistering broken-string approach to his acoustic flying V guitar, with original songs that are accessible, and message driven"
- (Chicago Jams)

“He has a most unique soaring falsetto and a wild eyes rolled in the back of his head fierce guitar style. He writes original songs, including a fantastic song about Freedom (the gas station). Jaik's sound is somewhere between Anti-Folk and The Band and it is unlike anything I've heard from anyone else. His energy is fierce, his vocal range is inhuman, his beard is long.
You've gotta check this guy out.”
- ( Independent Music Center )

"when you hear his voice with his music, it works. His talent on the acoustic flying V guitar and mandolin is something to behold. He stood alone on the stage, sounding like a full band. The crowd at IBC loved him. The crowd danced to every song and sang along."
- (Rearview Reviews)

"You a bad motherfucker" - (Billy Branch, Chicago blues legend, 11/08)

Jaik is a nationally touring independent performer based in Chicago. He has shared bills with artists such as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Ani Difranco, Wilco, Bela Fleck, MMW, Del McCoury, NIN, Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Drovers, Leftover Salmon, Merl Saunders, Justin Townes Earle, Drop Q (Kris Meyers of Umphrey’s McGee, Kalyan Pathak of Fareed Haque Group), Digital Underground, Blueground Undergrass, Garaj Mahal, EOTO (members of String Cheese Incident), The Schwag, Ekoostik Hookah, Tea Leaf Green, Split Lip Rayfield, Devon Allman & Honeytribe, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, and Victor Wooten; and performed on stage with acoustic blues dynamo, Corey Harris, and Chicago blues legend Billy Branch as well. He has toured through IL, MI, WI, MO, IN, TN, NJ, NY, CT, GA, OH, MN, AZ, TX, IA, NE, CO, SD, ND, WY, UT, MT, CA, OR, WA, and BC. He maintains a long mailing list from these regions and schedules over 100 shows a year. He has performed at many festivals around the country and major venues from coast to coast including the House of Blues Chicago main-stage, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre in Colorado, Camp Zoe in Missouri, Summer Camp in Illinois and Horning’s Hideout Amphitheatre in Oregon. In 2009 he performed at dozens of festivals including prime-time main stage slots at Cavefest and Chicago's Metronome Celebration street festival, along with 8(!) appearances at the Summer Camp Festival on a bill with Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Umphreys McGee, Moe, Les Claypool, Keller Williams, John Scofield, Cornmeal, etc. The 2009 Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Fest had him play following multi-grammy winner Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. At the 2009 Bonnaroo festival (featuring Bruce Springsteen, Wilco, Al Green, etc) he gave an hour long 10pm friday set in the gap between the Beastie Boys & Phish. Over 95,000 tickets were sold. In the Summer of 2010 he performed at Bonnaroo (Stevie Wonder & Jay-Z headline), Summer Camp Festival (Govt Mule, Umphrey's Mcgee, Avett Brothers), Hoodilidoo, Cavefest, Funk You Festival, DuckFest, Cosmic Railroad Family Gathering, Wuhnurth Festival, Michigan Peace Fest, America Folk Yeh, Widow’s Peak Music Fest & over 25 music festivals.

Jaik has moved well over 15,000 CDs by hand with no outside assistance, one by one, hand to fan. His song “Leaving Vancouver” was featured on the front page of the Chicago Sun Times website accompanying an article and a 2 page photograph in the paper itself. Chicago Tribune ran a feature article in 2009. His song Checks & Balances was featured on Neil Young's website for over a year. A new album is in the works for 2010.

Jaiks 4-octave voice stretches out in vocal solos, scatting and beatboxing; over his high-energy acoustic guitar work on original songs that are accessible and lyrically intriguing. The focus is on keeping the show fun for the audience.

Jaik is an educated musician, having trained at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Illinois and California State Universities' music departments, and in Hollywood's Musician's Institute as their youngest student when he was 16 years-old. He spent all of his teen-age years practicing 10-16 hours per day. After studying jazz and Euro-classical music, Jaik received an ethno-musicology/ anthropology degree with a thesis on microtonal guitar music from Mauritania. He is always seeking performance opportunities and new avenues forward for his music.

http://myspace.com/jaikwillis jaikwillis@hotmail.com 309 530 9838